Dr. James Beckett Interview: Sports + Math = Amazing Success!
Diana Landau | January 26, 2021
Carl interviews the one and only Dr. Jim Beckett. Dr. Beckett has lived quite a life—and as he says, “I had a childhood hobby that grew into a successful business and now I'm turning back into a hobby!”
He is currently the CEO of Beckett Interests Inc. of Dallas, Texas. He is the founder of Beckett Publications Inc., the world's largest sports and entertainment collectibles publisher, and served as its CEO from 1984 until selling the company for a reported $20 million in January 2005.
Beckett Publications' titles included Beckett Baseball, Beckett Basketball, Beckett Football, Beckett Hockey, Beckett Racing, Beckett Fantasy Sports Powered by Rotoworld.com, Neopets (The Official Magazine), Beckett Pokemon, Beckett Dragonball Z, Beckett Anime & Manga, Beckett Yu-Gi-Oh Unofficial Collector and a number of other titles. Jim has also authored more than 50 sports-related books, including numerous annual price guides in several collectible fields.
As a child, Jim lived in 18 houses in 18 years. His father was in the military and then a corporate CEO and it kept the family moving. He said of those years, “Moving a lot with new schools means you've got to be a quick study.” Jim also discovered that his hobby of collecting baseball cards was a great “socializer.”
After earning his Ph.D. in statistics from Southern Methodist University in 1975, he was a tenured associate professor of statistics at Bowling Green State University until 1980. Surrounded by so many baseball entities in the region, he said it was an immersive experience. Combining his great love of sports and math, he decided to publish a free price survey to the collector market in 1975. In 1979, he published a full-length book.
Living in Dallas in 1984, Jim then published Baseball Monthly magazine. It was such a success he left his other jobs to fully devote his time to Beckett Publications, Inc. Carl noted that he also launched his first magazine in 1984, Computer Language. Their paths and exit strategies were entirely different—Carl sold his magazine three years later, while Jim grew his company over 20 years into an empire. “I’m not really a serial entrepreneur”, he said. “I’m an opportunistic entrepreneur, I had many great ideas, but that one idea seemed to have legs on it and it sure seemed that I should be the guy to carry it forward.”
The company eventually expanded way beyond baseball cards, selling 2 million magazines a month. “I think I have the record for the greatest direct mail return, I had a 1,000%! I would send out 1,000 pieces of mail and get 10,000 orders,” Jim told us. Then while actively leading the company, Jim suffered a heart attack. It forced him into concentrating on his schedule and his health. He went into a more executive role with the company, which he didn't enjoy. “I’m a hands-on guy!” Soon he started thinking of selling.
In addition to running a successful company, Jim had started a pro-bono consulting business to help leaders and future leaders solve problems. He started having 200 meetings a year with different entities, often bringing in peers to help too. Jim’s love of problem solving has led to more than 5,000 meetings over the years. “It has been so fulfilling,” he added.
Now in (un)retirement, Jim is going strong with a daily (yes, daily!) podcast for the sports collector world. Turns out that in the pandemic, card collecting has had a dramatic resurgence. 2020 was the biggest year ever. “I get to have an impact on my industry and influence the influencers. I'm having a blast!”
Dr. James Beckett’s (un)retirement advice:
“I think people need to find some connection to a passion. It’s not I have to do this, it’s I get to do this. How great is that?”
“I was always a person to bring order out of the chaos……as I've grown older, I've realized you don't want to eliminate all the chaos. A little bit of chaos is the joie de vivre.”
“Leave the world a better place. Make a positive impact!”
Check out the Dr. James Beckett: Sports Card Insights podcast.
This week we're sponsored by 032 Outsourcing: Call 214.403.3755 or visit: https://032outsourcing.com/
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” weekly blog.